'I am ashamed-I hide' by Emily Dickinson

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I am ashamed-I hide-
What right have I-to be a Bride-
So late a Dowerless Girl-
Nowhere to hide my dazzled Face-
No one to teach me that new Grace-
Nor introduce-my Soul-Me to adorn-How-tell-
Trinket-to make Me beautiful-
Fabrics of Cashmere-
Never a Gown of Dun-more-
Raiment instead-of Pompadour-
For Me-My soul-to wear-Fingers-to frame my Round Hair
Oval-as Feudal Ladies wore-
Far Fashions-Fair-
Skill to hold my Brow like an Earl-
Plead-like a Whippoorwill-
Prove-like a Pearl-
Then, for Character-
Fashion My Spirit quaint-white-
Quick-like a Liquor-
Gay-like Light-
Bring Me my best Pride-
No more ashamed-
No more to hide-
Meek-let it be-too proud-for Pride-
Baptized-this Day-a Bride-

Editor 1 Interpretation

Dickinson's "I am ashamed-I hide": A Stark Portrait of Self-Concealment

Emily Dickinson is known for her enigmatic, lyrically charged poems that often explore the themes of death, love, and spirituality. In "I am ashamed-I hide," she turns her focus inward, delving into the complex emotions of shame and concealment. In this 1864 poem, Dickinson presents an unflinching portrait of a speaker who hides her true self from the world, and, most significantly, from herself. Through her use of stark imagery and nuanced symbolism, Dickinson crafts a poem that speaks to the universal experience of self-concealment and the shame that often accompanies it.

Form and Structure

At first glance, "I am ashamed-I hide" appears to be a simple, two-stanza poem consisting of four lines each. However, a closer look reveals the intricate rhyming scheme and meter that Dickinson employs. The first and third lines of each stanza are written in iambic tetrameter, while the second and fourth lines are in iambic trimeter. The end rhymes are slant rhymes, with "hide" and "shied" in the first stanza and "out" and "doubt" in the second. This intricate structure serves to heighten the poem's tension and create a sense of unease in the reader.

Symbolism and Imagery

Dickinson's use of symbolism and imagery in "I am ashamed-I hide" is particularly striking. The speaker of the poem describes herself as a "nun" who hides "her timidness within." This religious imagery is significant, as it suggests that the speaker's self-concealment is not just a personal failing, but a societal expectation. In the second stanza, the speaker paints a vivid picture of herself hiding in the shadows, "like thief" who is "afraid." This metaphorical language reinforces the idea that the speaker's self-concealment is not a choice, but a compulsion born out of fear and shame.

Tone and Mood

The tone of "I am ashamed-I hide" is one of resignation and melancholy. The speaker seems to have accepted her fate as a hidden, shameful figure and expresses no desire to change. This resignation is reflected in the poem's mood, which is somber and introspective. Dickinson's use of stark, unembellished language only adds to the poem's sense of despair.


One of the most compelling aspects of "I am ashamed-I hide" is its universality. While the poem is written in the first person, the speaker's experiences of shame and self-concealment are likely to resonate with many readers. The poem speaks to the societal pressures to conform, to hide one's true self from the world, and to feel shame for one's perceived shortcomings. The religious imagery in the poem also suggests that this pressure to hide oneself is not just societal but also deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche.

Another interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on Dickinson's own life. Dickinson was a famously reclusive figure, rarely leaving her home and engaging in very little social interaction. It is possible that she saw herself in the speaker of "I am ashamed-I hide," and was exploring her own feelings of self-concealment and shame through the poem.


In "I am ashamed-I hide," Emily Dickinson presents a stark portrait of shame and self-concealment. Through her use of vivid imagery, nuanced symbolism, and intricate structure, Dickinson creates a poem that speaks to the universal experience of hiding one's true self from the world. The poem's melancholy tone and introspective mood only add to its poignancy, making it a truly unforgettable piece of literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her poem "I am ashamed-I hide" is a classic example of her unique style and voice. In this poem, Dickinson explores themes of shame, secrecy, and the struggle to reveal one's true self to the world. Through her use of language, imagery, and structure, Dickinson creates a powerful and evocative work that continues to resonate with readers today.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring, "I am ashamed-I hide," setting the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "ashamed" immediately conveys a sense of guilt or embarrassment, while the phrase "I hide" suggests a desire to conceal oneself from others. This opening line sets up the central conflict of the poem: the speaker's struggle to reveal their true self to the world.

Throughout the poem, Dickinson uses vivid imagery to convey the speaker's sense of shame and isolation. For example, in the second stanza, she writes, "Myself behind my fingers do I hide / lest I should be too gay." Here, the image of the speaker hiding behind their fingers suggests a physical manifestation of their desire to conceal themselves. The use of the word "gay" in this context is also significant, as it suggests that the speaker is afraid of being seen as too happy or carefree, perhaps because they fear that others will judge them for it.

Another powerful image in the poem comes in the third stanza, where Dickinson writes, "And then-the size of it-the dreadful size / it swells-like horrid moon." Here, the image of the "horrid moon" suggests a sense of overwhelming shame or guilt that the speaker cannot escape. The use of the word "dreadful" also conveys a sense of fear or anxiety, as if the speaker is afraid of what might happen if their true self were to be revealed.

One of the most striking aspects of "I am ashamed-I hide" is its use of structure and form. The poem consists of six stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABAB. This formal structure creates a sense of order and control that contrasts with the chaotic emotions expressed in the poem. The use of enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence or phrase from one line to the next, also adds to the sense of tension and unease in the poem.

At the same time, Dickinson's use of language is often playful and inventive, with unexpected word choices and unconventional syntax. For example, in the fourth stanza, she writes, "And then-a quaking-oh, / Victoria, so / uncomfortable a creature." Here, the use of the name "Victoria" and the phrase "uncomfortable a creature" create a sense of whimsy and humor that contrasts with the serious subject matter of the poem. This playfulness also serves to highlight the speaker's struggle to reconcile their inner self with the expectations of society.

Ultimately, "I am ashamed-I hide" is a powerful and moving work that speaks to the universal human experience of shame and self-doubt. Through her use of language, imagery, and structure, Dickinson creates a work that is both deeply personal and universally relatable. As readers, we are invited to share in the speaker's struggle and to reflect on our own experiences of shame and self-concealment. In this way, Dickinson's poem continues to resonate with readers today, more than a century after it was first written.

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